Come all ye self-styled chefs and kitchen users, we must talk.

DanB wrote:
Kraint wrote:
a good set of cast-iron cookware.

My advice: Don't get a fully set of cast iron pans.

Cast-iron cookware is great for one or two specific items but if your entire set of pots and pans is cast iron you will find it a colossal pain in the ass. Cast iron is great for things you want to get seriously hot and remain that way, like a griddling pan, or for something that you want to heat slowly and evenly (and retrain the heat) like the le cruesset casserole/braising dishes. But for most other uses it is a lot harder to work cast iron than stainless steel because of the long lag time in either heating and cooling when you need to adjust the temperature of the pan. I'd usually go with buy the heaviest bottomed stainless steel pans I can find from which ever kitchen wear supply store I can find that supplies to working ktichens. As the price will be reasonably sane.

Yup. I use my Lodge pan almost exclusively for broiling and roasting. Every once in a while, I'll make cornbread in it. It practically lives in my oven.

Cast iron is great for that, but working it on a stovetop is pretty inconvenient. It takes forever to heat, temp control is slow in either direction, and the wrist breaking weight means my 110 pound wife can't use them.

Kraint wrote:
a good set of cast-iron cookware.

My advice: Don't get a full set of cast iron pans.

Cast-iron cookware is great for one or two specific items but if your entire set of pots and pans is cast iron you will find it a colossal pain in the ass. Cast iron is great for things you want to get seriously hot and remain that way, like a griddling pan, or for something that you want to heat slowly and evenly (and retrain the heat) like the le cruesset casserole/braising dishes. But for most other uses it is a lot harder to work cast iron than stainless steel because of the long lag time in either heating and cooling when you need to adjust the temperature of the pan. I'd usually go with buy the heaviest bottomed stainless steel pans I can find from which ever kitchenware supply store I can find that supplies to working kitchens. As the price will be reasonably sane.

Paleocon wrote:
the wrist breaking weight means my 110 pound wife can't use them.

There is that too.

Paleocon wrote:
Cast iron is great for that, but working it on a stovetop is pretty inconvenient. It takes forever to heat, temp control is slow in either direction, and the wrist breaking weight means my 110 pound wife can't use them.

Not to mention that using the beast on glass-ceramic cooktop always has me nervous about breaking, scratching or denting the surface of the cooktop.

Yeah, Cast iron is for depth on your bench, not width. I have a cast iron griddle, a swedish cast iron skillet, and an enamelled iron casserole. The rest is professional grade stainless steel.

As for uses for dill: Swedish cooking. The end.

Also would like to second making home made gravad lax. The wife and I have turned that into a new Christmas tradition, along with my Jack Daniels and Maple glazed ham.

Maq wrote:
Yeah, Cast iron is for depth on your bench, not width. I have a cast iron griddle, a swedish cast iron skillet, and an enamelled iron casserole. The rest is professional grade stainless steel.

As for uses for dill: Swedish cooking. The end.

Also would like to second making home made gravad lax. The wife and I have turned that into a new Christmas tradition, along with my Jack Daniels and Maple glazed ham.

One of my Facebook friends posted that bourbon should never be used for cooking. I had to give her a verbal smackdown with my JD/honey/mustard glazed salmon steaks recipe.

BTW, I'll happily take any advice from the North American contingent on cooking with bourbon and/or maple syrup. I just took inspiration from a can of primo canadian maple syrup a theatre company my wife was working with left her as a gift but I'm sure native cooks would have better ideas than this antipodean.

Paleocon wrote:
Maq wrote:
Yeah, Cast iron is for depth on your bench, not width. I have a cast iron griddle, a swedish cast iron skillet, and an enamelled iron casserole. The rest is professional grade stainless steel.

As for uses for dill: Swedish cooking. The end.

Also would like to second making home made gravad lax. The wife and I have turned that into a new Christmas tradition, along with my Jack Daniels and Maple glazed ham.

One of my Facebook friends posted that bourbon should never be used for cooking. I had to give her a verbal smackdown with my JD/honey/mustard glazed salmon steaks recipe.


Also pecan pie. Bourbon elevates that to a whole new level.

Of course, I'm from Kentucky, so I use bourbon in a lot of places people don't; potato soup, chili, etc. etc.

Paleocon wrote:
One of my Facebook friends posted that bourbon should never be used for cooking.

I can't think of anything else I'd use it for

b slippy wrote:
Anyone have any good uses for dill (besides basic salmon or tuna steak)?

Maq wrote:
As for uses for dill: Swedish cooking. The end.

You need to go on an eating tour of Poland, Sweden and the other countries along the Baltic coasts. Anything you'd imagine having dairy fats (butter, sour cream, cheese), fish fats, chicken fats (including chicken fat or chicken stock), or mayonnaise tends to get dill over there. It takes a little getting used to, but it can be delicious. I got back and was even putting dill on Kraft mac & cheese.

Maq wrote:
Also would like to second making home made gravad lax. The wife and I have turned that into a new Christmas tradition, along with my Jack Daniels and Maple glazed ham.

The sweetness of cooked bourbon is somewhere between maple and mesquite, so it's going to go well with a lot of piggy delights. I like incorporating bourbon in baked potato dishes, too, and in places where I'm looking to complement cheddar or add a sweet note to something salty and buttery.

Minarchist wrote:
Of course, I'm from Kentucky, so I use bourbon in a lot of places people don't; potato soup, chili, etc. etc.

Spot on. Related: Any good chili incorporates bacon to counter the heat.

I'm still trying to figure out fried rice. There always seemed to be something missing even though I got the fancy sesame oil and everything. Then I discovered rice vinegar. Going to give that a shot next time, but does anyone have any recommendations for stuff to add? So far I've been using sushi rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut oil, salt and egg, heated lightly in a wok. Plus whatever else I want to throw in there, of course.

There are two key things to fried rice

1. Must be leftover cooked rice.

2. Start with a good sticky short grain rice to get the right texture when you are done.

I generally do

1. Saute onion (and maybe garlic and ginger). Add that red chinese sausage.

2. Add rice, break it up and stir

3. maybe 1-2tsp. of soy. Salt and pepper.

4. Egg if you want it.

wordsmythe wrote:
The sweetness of cooked bourbon is somewhere between maple and mesquite, so it's going to go well with a lot of piggy delights. I like incorporating bourbon in baked potato dishes, too, and in places where I'm looking to complement cheddar or add a sweet note to something salty and buttery.

I just had a really dirty idea for a jansson's frestelse with bourbon and bacon....

Maq wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
The sweetness of cooked bourbon is somewhere between maple and mesquite, so it's going to go well with a lot of piggy delights. I like incorporating bourbon in baked potato dishes, too, and in places where I'm looking to complement cheddar or add a sweet note to something salty and buttery.

I just had a really dirty idea for a jansson's frestelse with bourbon and bacon....

Gief now pl0x

LobsterMobster wrote:
I'm still trying to figure out fried rice. There always seemed to be something missing even though I got the fancy sesame oil and everything. Then I discovered rice vinegar. Going to give that a shot next time, but does anyone have any recommendations for stuff to add? So far I've been using sushi rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut oil, salt and egg, heated lightly in a wok. Plus whatever else I want to throw in there, of course.

The key ingredient you're missing is a teaspoon of shrimp paste (adjust to taste as it is very salty). Fry it in the oil until it's dissolving/breaking-up before the rice goes in. It will totally transform your fried rice.

Well I haven't exactly gotten a utensil or appliance that made me a better chef, however, I am too cheap to get cable, so I had to update the old bunny ears to HD, and now I get the create channel, and I love watching Cook's Country and BBQ University, and Mexico One Plate at a Time and I have successfully made several recipes from these shows.

I figure anything with about six ingrediants I can make.

I have made from the tv shows, fried chicken, prime rib, shredded pork tacos, mashed potatoes with root vegetables, I know not a huge variety, but a big deal to me.

The confidence from being able to prepare those dishes has lent itself to me being more creative about things I cook without a recipe.

I did a great sandwich the other day.

I used, Colosimo Tuscan red wine sausages, I butterfly cut them so that they would lay flat, and grilled them, about 5 minutes on each side.
I sauted an onion, a green pepper, and mushrooms in a little olive oil with some salt and pepper.
Melted provolone and swiss cheese over the vegetables once the onions were that nice carmalized brown color.
Spread garlic butter on hoagie buns and grilled them
Put two more pieces of cheese on the hoagie rolls, put on a piece of the sausage, heap on a helping of vegetables with the melted cheese.

And that was it, took me about 10-15 minutes.

Still looking to get a mortar and pestle. Beyond that, wedding gifts took care of any important items neither of us had beforehand.

wordsmythe wrote:
Still looking to get a mortar and pestle. Beyond that, wedding gifts took care of any important items neither of us had beforehand.

I love this one. Super heavy and high-capacity. It'll make a paste of garlic, salt, lemon zest and olive oil in no time. It looks quite nice, too.

wordsmythe wrote:
You need to go on an eating tour of Poland, Sweden and the other countries along the Baltic coasts. Anything you'd imagine having dairy fats (butter, sour cream, cheese), fish fats, chicken fats (including chicken fat or chicken stock), or mayonnaise tends to get dill over there. It takes a little getting used to, but it can be delicious. I got back and was even putting dill on Kraft mac & cheese.

Balkans uses it a lot too. E.g. Greek tzatziki or Bulgarian tarator (which is basically the same thing). In hot summer days there is nothing refreshing: buy a good yoghurt (10% fat, no additives, etc.), mix well with pressed garlic, olive oil, pinch of salt, grated gherkin and lots of dill. Put in a fridge for a few hours while you go inline skating/hiking/doing anything in summer. Come back home and eat like a soup. Like a delicious, cooling, wonderful summer soup. You can also add some olives or walnuts, they go really well with it. You can use it also as a dip/sauce for grilled meat. You just really need to leave it for a few hours to let the flavors mix.

Minarchist wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Still looking to get a mortar and pestle. Beyond that, wedding gifts took care of any important items neither of us had beforehand.

I love this one. Super heavy and high-capacity. It'll make a paste of garlic, salt, lemon zest and olive oil in no time. It looks quite nice, too.

I have one almost exactly like that. It's great for both grinding and crushing (it's difficult to grind spices in those porcelain mortars with smooth sides) and you can mix the oil or vinegar right in. It's super heavy so you can use a lot of force. Plus it looks great in the kitchen. I looooove my granite mortar (have it for four years now and use it frequently), but I have broken the pestle recently, it has fallen on the floor The mortar itself will easily last generations though.

Paleocon wrote:
Blotto The Clown wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
... wrapped it in bacon, and roasted it in the oven in a cast iron skillet.

Done! I very much want to try the bacon wrapped turducken recipe sometime, but we have a thread for that I guess :P

Try this sometime.

Take dried dates, pull out the pits, replace the pits with white almonds, wrap them in bacon, glaze them in maple syrup, and roast in the oven until the bacon is cooked.

Serve with a dry sherry.

Yum.

So this^, I am going to make this over the weekend. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. A friend that I showed this to had another recipe similar but slightly different. Instead of a nut inside, he put cheese, and instead of syrup glazing a dry spice is called for on the bacon. Same roasting process though

What do you guys think about those 'oven-ready' lasagna noodles?

I've had surprisingly good luck with them so far. I made a lasagna tonight that was a hit with the extended visiting family:

9 pieces oven-ready lasagna
1 jar of Ragu Parmesan Romano sauce
1 cup of mozarella cheese
1 small onion, diced
1 'ugly tomato' homegrown tomato, diced
1 can cream-of-mushroom soup
1/2 pound sliced white mushrooms
3 tablespoons half/half
1 pound lean (93/7) ground beef

I have to say that 40-minute-baked bad boy was delicious. I had no problems with the oven-ready noodles (though I did wrap the whole thing in double-foil as suggested)

I'd strongly, strongly suggest replacing the commercial sauce and soup with a home grown alternative. Basically you're looking at a jar of passata, some herbs, and a handful of grated parmesan to replace the sauce and some cream, sauteed onion, and a pinch of white pepper and nutmeg to replace the soup.

What you are going to leave out is a buttload of sugar and salt and probably a fair few preservatives as well.

Maq wrote:
I'd strongly, strongly suggest replacing the commercial sauce and soup with a home grown alternative. Basically you're looking at a jar of passata, some herbs, and a handful of grated parmesan to replace the sauce and some cream, sauteed onion, and a pinch of white pepper and nutmeg to replace the soup.

What you are going to leave out is a buttload of sugar and salt and probably a fair few preservatives as well.

I was going to suggest this, but with a slightly different tack: Make your own sauce and use Ricotta cheese instead of the soup. Then you'll have real lasagna.

So in the interest of enabling you, here's how I'd do sauce for lasagna:

1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 large can tomato sauce < You can replicate this with a can of whole peeled tomatoes and a blender or food processor
1 small-med white onion
1lb italian sausage
assorted dried herbs, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary
garlic cloves, 2-3 smashed
1 green bell pepper

Anyway, 1-2 tbsp olive oil in the pan. Sweat the onion, then brown the meat in that. When the meat is done, add the tomato stuff and simmer for a bit with the herbs. Taste as you add them, have a few spoons handy. When you have that right, add mushrooms, bell pepper, or even carrots if you're into that. Simmer a bit longer.

For the lasagna, you layer like this:

Sauce on the bottom of the pan, then your first layer of noodles. Then you go cheese>sauce>noodles for 3-4 layers, mozzarella on the top, ricotta in the layers.

I find that commercial sauces are way too heavy on sugar. I prefer a clean sauce myself.

All I do for that is the following.

Heat some olive oil in a deepish saute pan or cast iron skillet. Throw in some finely sliced garlic and brown. Pull the toasted garlic husks out and lightly salt the oil. At that point, you will have a garlic flavored olive oil. Open a can or two of pomodoro tomatoes, cut them in half, and remove the seeds. I prefer canned because they are already pre-peeled making the extra step of boiling water and removing the skins unnecessary. Chop some up for texture but run the rest in a food processor or blender. Combine the chopped and pureed tomatoes in a pitcher and quickly pour into the hot oil. At that point, the oil may flash over. Don't worry. If this happens, simply blow out the flame. Let the contents simmer for about 20 minutes or until the oil is fully absorbed. Throw in some fresh oregano and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. At that point, you should have a wonderfully clean pomodoro sauce.

Puce Moose wrote:
What do you guys think about those 'oven-ready' lasagna noodles?

Pretty much with the exception of stuffed pastas you should always use dried noodles of some sort for pasta dishes so I'm all for the 'oven-ready' type. In fact I don't think I have ever seen anyone make lasagne with anything other than dried pasta.

DanB wrote:
Puce Moose wrote:
What do you guys think about those 'oven-ready' lasagna noodles?

Pretty much with the exception of stuffed pastas you should always use dried noodles of some sort for pasta dishes so I'm all for the 'oven-ready' type. In fact I don't think I have ever seen anyone make lasagne with anything other than dried pasta.

Oh, lasagna with freshly-made pasta is a treat. It is on the laborious side, but the taste and texture difference is significant - it feels like fresh pasta absorbs all the juices much better. Here's an inspiration.

DanB wrote:
In fact I don't think I have ever seen anyone make lasagne with anything other than dried pasta.

Done that and as with any fresh pasta vs dried pasta, the difference is appreciable. I don't think making the pasta sheets is that much of a chore, if you've got the pasta making routine down.

jlaakso wrote:
DanB wrote:
In fact I don't think I have ever seen anyone make lasagne with anything other than dried pasta.

Done that and as with any fresh pasta vs dried pasta, the difference is appreciable. I don't think making the pasta sheets is that much of a chore, if you've got the pasta making routine down.

True. In fact, lasagne noodles are one step easier.

That said, I find that fresh pasta is only noticeably better on first eating. If you have to refrigerate or freeze for subsequent eatings, I find the difference between fresh and dry is negligible.